Former Etowah softball standout Skyler Wallace has been making the most of her time on the under-19 U.S. national team.
After being named to the team after a January tryout, Wallace has been honing her skills this summer with some of the top players and coaches in the nation.
“It’s been a great experience so far,” said Wallace, who recently completed her freshman season as an infielder at perennial college power Alabama. “Not a lot of people can say they played for the junior national team for the USA. It’s definitely cool to meet these girls, work with these coaches I don’t normally get to work with and see the input they have. It’s been a lot of fun.”
During her time with the national team, Wallace has played in Houston and Atlanta, while also making stops in France and Ireland.
Wallace, however, returned to a familiar place last week to play in the International Cup in Columbus, in the same complex where she helped lead Etowah to the state championship game in 2017.
“Being at home, I had a lot of people come out who had seen me play,” Wallace said. “A lot of Alabama fans came to support. There were a lot of high school memories playing on that field for high school ball. Playing on that field now was cool to see how my place has changed in the softball world.”
Wallace’s place in the softball world has been on the rise, especially after she hit a walk-off home run against Georgia to send Alabama to the semifinals of the Southeastern Conference tournament in May.
The extra-inning homer was one of Wallace’s favorite moments from her freshman season, but she was still somewhat surprised by the reaction it got.
“I definitely got a lot of Twitter followers from it,” Wallace said. “It was posted everywhere. I saw it for three weeks straight, and even a month after it happened, I still had people sending me the video. It was just cool to see everyone’s excitement for me. We have great fans, so all the support that came in was nice.”
As much support as she got from her walk-off homer, Wallace said playing for the junior national team provides even more.
Simply putting the uniform on comes with a nation of built-in fans, and while it also comes with added pressure, Wallace said wearing the colors of the flag is one of the highlights of her career.
“A lot of people like college softball, but wearing the red, white and blue is different,” Wallace said. “You have to play the game with respect all the time. There are always eyes on you. It’s the highest level you can be at. The biggest difference is all the little things you have to do. Overall, it’s just an amazing, amazing feeling to wear those colors and have the opportunity to represent the USA.”
Playing in one of the Southeastern Conference, Wallace has seen her game improve since high school, but she has picked up even more during her time with the junior national team.
She was on the only under-19 team at the 10-team International Cup, but they performed well, finishing 7-3, behind only Japan and the champion U.S. senior national team.
Wallace also played well individually, batting .269 with seven runs scored, while serving as the catalyst from the leadoff spot in all but one game.
“It was a lot of fun playing these older girls,” she said. “You see how they do things, how they play the game and how they still love the game. That’s what you really want to take away as a younger player.”
Wallace and her junior national teammates will look to use that experience as they complete their summer schedule. Exhibition games are set in South Carolina later this month, before the Softball World Cup in California caps the schedule in August.
“We definitely have a shot to win it,” Wallace said. “I think we are, hands-down, one of the best teams that are going to be there. I’m excited to see what we’re going to do.”